Howell Jenkins of Wales
“Howell Aidan Jenkins… what ARE you doing!” the bellowing scream caught him off guard, his head suddenly jolting up and making eye contact with the woman standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips through his mess of black hair. An angry look adorned her face and the young male couldn’t help but flinch away when noticed how unyielding it was—how very unaffected she was by his charmingly innocent smile, the way he batted his eyes at her. A nervous laugh escaped and he gave a simple shrug of his shoulders, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand in a vain attempt to avoid conflict, though both of them knew it would end badly. There was a long moment of silence when his blue eyes turned to the broken vase on the floor, daring to look up and meet her solid gaze, only to flinch once again and look back to his wrong doing. “What are you doing.” she repeated sternly, and the child looked up biting his lip, pleading silently for some mercy.
“I was just seeing if I could move it. Mom! You should have seen it! It was great!” He exclaimed with excitement as his nervous look left he features leaving him with a brilliant accomplished smile. He gave a small leap into the air than began to move his arms as if to explain what had just transpired, but her unwavering look halted his movements and he looked back to his feet like a dog who had just been caught chewing on shoes. All the excitement drained from his eyes, his toes curling on the floor bashfully. “I’ve gotten better at it mom. Here! Let me fix it! I’m sure I can.”
“Howie, you need to give up on these delusions and stop lying. Magic doesn’t exist.” She said sternly, a sort of softness to her voice as she watched her son. It took her by surprise when the guilty look on Howell’s face disappeared and was replaced by a stubborn stare and red cheeks puffing in childish anger. Her arms folded over her chest as she raised a brow to the young child, almost challenging him, but sighing a moment later. Walking into the room, she approached him, lifting her hand to tousle his dark hair. “You need to take responsibility for your actions and stop hiding behind this. It was cute when you were younger, but you’re growing up now Howell. There is no such thing as magic.” she cooed, kneeling down in front of him to be on his level. Her eyes met his with a keen softness, her hand moving to caress her son’s shoulder, but only received a dark glare in return.
“It does too exist! I’ll prove it! I’ll put the vase back together good as new! Then you’ll have to believe me! I’m a wizard!” he exclaimed with a childlike determination, shoving his mother’s hand off his shoulder and moving to the shattered glass. A startled gasp escaped her at his forcefulness, but resolved to remain quiet and let the boy demonstrate what he so strongly believed. It would be a life lesson well learned, proving once and for all there was no such thing as magic, when he failed to follow through with his claims. Standing up, she watched as her son sat cross-legged in front of the mess, eyes staring at it with intense concentration. His hands were clasped in a white knuckled grip shaking by the sheer amount of force he put on them. The silence between them turned tense as he struggled, pulling his hands apart and slowly bringing them over the broken pile willing the pieces to come back together and prove his mother wrong. Though it was a fruitless effort, the shards remaining just the same as they were before, unmoving. He hadn’t realized he had been holding his breath until he let it go, gasping in disbelief at the mess still laying before him.
“Howell,” she started, approaching the dejected child, placing her hand fondly atop his head. “I’m sorry sweetie, but there was no such thing as magic. You have to get over this and learn to take responsibility for your actions. Now go to your room and think about what you’ve done.” she scolded calmly, sighing when the young child whimpered quietly, refusing to get up. Taking a deep breath she turned from him, moving back to the doorway.
“I’ll prove it to you… just you wait.”
Life was ordinary for the Jenkin’s family, the picture of average to anyone. But it was perfect for them. They didn’t need to live the extravagant life or buy expensive things; they just wanted to be happy and healthy. For years, time went by mundane and boring, not much changing to make them question anything, until their son was born. They should have known life was going to change for the extraordinary when the oddly happy and quiet baby was brought home; but ignorance was bliss. For years as Howell grew up, the minor accidents that happened around the house were just written off and cast away as nothing unusual. Broken plates happened all the time and those photos that were rearranged were obviously moved when cleaning got done. But as the infant began to toddle and talk, it became obvious that those misplaced objects and broken objects were product of their mischievous son who was always at the scene of the crime with an excited look on his face.
Every time they had asked him what had happened, what he did, Howell would smile at them as large as he could and exclaim how it had been magic. Told them how he had willed the objects to move, or had teleported them with his mind to a different place and that he was a wizard. Neither parent believed him, and wrote the excuses off as a creative imagination, letting him get away with his mischief as a toddler because he was too young to fully understand the consequences. Little did they know, their son had been telling the truth. Some part of his young and growing mind had been able to access something unknown—a power he would never understand. It was strong in him, growing more and more every day. But he had no control over it and thus ended up breaking things in his practices or misplacing the objects he had wanted to teleport. Despite the many failed attempts, Howell had fallen in love with this part of his life and spent as much time as a child could figuring out to fine tune it.
Slowly but surely, multiple accidents among hundreds of groundings as he grew older, he learned to control the power running through his veins. His ambitions were great, but it took immense concentration for him to manipulate things to his will. No matter what he had the determination to grow stronger, to grow more powerful. What was so clear as day in front of him remained lost in the fog of his parent’s mind, who just couldn’t wrap their head around what was going on in their home. He tried to prove to them that he was a wizard and it wasn’t him just being unruly but their lack of confidence in him knocked him down and he couldn’t summon the power no matter how hard he tried to show them. They just couldn’t believe what they didn’t understand, and it hurt Howell to his very core. He was young when he made the vow, but he was going to prove to them magic existed—show them that he was the powerful wizard he claimed to be. They’d be sorry.
Thesis: Magic is out There
He didn’t know what possessed him to think this was okay, that writing his thesis paper on Magic was going to turn out alright, but he did it anyway despite the obvious repercussions . He was smarter than that, more intelligent than to think it would be alright for him to do something so odd, but it didn’t matter. It was over and done with now, sitting in the mailbox for his professor to grade after the second extension he had asked for. Such a procrastinator. He had entered school undecided on his major, dejectedly having applied to appease his parents who thought he was going nowhere in life still clinging to the childish idea of magic’s existence and wizardry. It wasn’t supposed to be anything more than just another experiment, nothing more than a way to shut his parents up and placate them for a period of time, and yet he was letting the stress of real world problems weigh him down. His magic was put on the back burner, and it killed him. His life work, passion, desire was being stifled, smothered out, by the stress of everyday normalcy. This was just what his parents wanted… for the extraordinary to be beaten and forced from their son so he could join the masses and conform. But Howell just wasn’t going to let that happen. He was a wizard.
So much effort had been put into that paper; blood, sweat, tears, and valuable time he would never get back. Every theory of magic, undeniable proof he had found through his research, personal practices and experiences had been put in it, having gone so far as to recount the multiple exercises and experiments he had done as a child in the paper. It was above and beyond what was called for, a simple seven page paper turning into a twenty some odd page dissertation on how magic existed in the world, how guilds of wizards got together, and how the existence of magic was irrefutable. The only thing that seemed to ease the impending trouble he was going to be in, was during his search he came across something interesting. Hidden expertly under a mountain of crap, lies, and illusions, was a rare gem of a find—a diamond in the rough. To anyone it was a hoax, just a bunch of delusional people playing a game. But to Howell, he had found a guild, a small group of talented wizards just like himself where he could make home with them.
In his late night excitement he had written them a letter, sealing it magically so only those powerful enough could open and read its contents. He had thought it to be a mistake after sending it in the mail that following morning, not too hopeful he would receive a response anytime in the near future. But it seemed to be the right step to take in moving forward. He had been wading in stagnant water for so long, that going anywhere with it would be moving forward. So imagine his surprise when he returned to his dorm, excited but slightly dejected about thesis paper knowing full well the professor would not appreciate it in the least, only to find a formally sealed envelope sitting on his desk.
In his excitement, Howell wasted no time in removing the magical seal, his anxiousness fueling his powers and waving it off as if it were just a thin layer of dust on it. His eyes greedily read the contents, taking in each word like a starving child given their first meal in days. It was short and simple, vague in most places, but straight to the point. There wasn’t a second thought or moment of hesitation in him as he grabbed his coat and left the dormitory, never to return again.
Growing up for Howell had been rough, most of his life spent in his room practicing his magic and defending himself against the unbelieving school children he attended school with. He was very charismatic, sure, and if he wanted he could make friends with just about anyone with a flash of his dazzling charming smile and dashing good looks, but the fact of the matter was that he didn’t want that sort of attention. People who didn’t believe in him weren’t going to be in his company. The lack of human relationships he had gave him time to move forward and get a stronger grasp on his magic, move forward and grasp on to the power that was bestowed upon him. His reclusive habits worried his parents, but as he grew older and started high school it began to fade.
His magic had grown greatly since he was a child, controlled and powerful. But as he entered into upper leveled schooling his attention waned slightly. His grades weren’t bad and any mark he didn’t agree with could be changed if he cared and worked hard enough to manipulate them, but truly what caught his eye were the people walking the hallways—but more so of the female population. Over time he began to find that he had fun messing with them—pursuing them until they fell in love with him and then turning around and breaking their hearts. It became a game to him, a challenge to see how easily he could win someone over or how long it took him to crack their exterior. He became known as the ‘Stealer of Hearts’ but even that didn’t deter them. As the years passed him by, Howell found that no one was challenging enough to keep his attention and that his magic was his true love in life. He wanted more of it… more power and more control. But he was at a standstill, and didn’t know what to do.
By this point in life Howell still hadn’t been able to prove to his parents that magic existed, their lack of faith in him, dismal hate for his ambition, and obvious disappointment that their son was delusional, enough to stunt his powers and render him virtually normal. During one such occasion before graduation his parents had expressed their disdain in him still clinging to his childlike fantasies, and in an attempt to appease them and make them proud, Howell agreed to give college a try if only to try and make them happy. He hadn’t planned on furthering his education, but he didn’t see any other option for him to take.
Begrudgingly he took went to school, though decided to not pick a major as he didn’t plan on staying much longer than his first year. His schedule was littered with first level courses ranging from math and sciences to literature and history, the only thing catching his attention being learning about the renaissance, the time of magic and lore, and his literature class that by the end of the semester they were supposed to have a paper written on what inspired them most in the world. Of course, he couldn’t just take the easy way out and write it on something he had become intrigued with in his other classes, but instead had to turn the simple assignment into something much larger. It was magic theory, and even though he knew the professor would scowl and give him bad marks, he didn’t care. He didn’t plan on staying anyway.
And after spending an entire semester doing research, conducting experiments, and writing, he finally finished his work. Though that wasn’t nearly as exciting as when he stumbled upon a group of wizards like himself who had formed a guild. He had been excited there were others like him in the world, and immediately sent them notice. It came as a shock to him that the day he turned his thesis paper in he received word back—an invitation to join them. He left that very same day, leaving all of his belongings in the dorm, and never returning.
His life with the guild started out rough, he was the new kid and they needed to assess him. But when news of a gateway to another world spread like wildfire among them, Howell dove head first into work and research to help them. His ambition, determination, and raw talent seemed to win the group over. And when the time came for them to seek the gateway out, a trip to the few places it was suspect to be, he was invited. His strong powers needed to help them search and find the gateway. It almost seemed like a fruitless trip as they spent a month doing nothing but searching cities for the gateway and coming up with nothing. But in a last ditch effort to find it, Howell snuck out from the company’s hotel the night before they were set to leave and return home, and hunted on his own. He worked better that way. And then it happened… in an ally, disguised to anyone with an untrained eye, he found it. He had used a simple magic tracking spell he had been working on, testing it in the field, and low and behold the majesty he found. He knew he should have turned back and told the others of his find, but the desire to cross was just too strong. And without hesitation he stepped through, unknowingly entering in to the next chapter of life.
Catch a Falling Star
“I’ll make a deal with you” he said, his tone serious as his eyes watched the glowing light in his hands. It should have burned; he should have felt his fingertips alight with fire and should have cast it away in a last ditch effort of self-preservation. But this little fire in his hands wasn’t hot. It was warm, soothing almost, and very much alive. Howell had just been minding his own business in the marshes, taking a break from his practices with Madame Sulliman and just studying alone in his “uncles” cabin, when the dark night’s sky lit up with new life in the form of a meteor shower. The tome he had been reading rested on the ground forgotten as the glorious, quite literally magical, scene played before his eyes and his alone.
Fire shot across the night sky in dazzling displays, landing far off in the distance of Porthaven’s Marshes and disappearing before his eyes. For a long moment he had thought it to be over, his heart weighing heavily in his chest with an odd sort of loss and sadness that the magnificence had come to an end. But from the dark sky came a burning new life, plummeting fast to the ground just a short distance away. Howell couldn’t remember what had possessed him to move forward, but he ran to catch the falling star, almost afraid it would fall and die in the marshes before he could get to it and inspect it. But just in the nick of time he was able to catch the star, his hands grasping it tightly for fear of dropping it and holding it to his chest until he was able to realize he had caught the star, and felt the warmth of it in his hands. Pulling it from his chest he held it in his palm delicately, opening his fingers slowly and watching it come to life before him.
The creature in his hands seemed dazed and mildly confused, but before it could run away in fear his grip suddenly grew tight around it. He didn’t want it escaping before he had his chance to speak with it, to understand it. Some dark power in his heart took over and he eyed the creature as if he knew it, giving it no time to gather its bearings. “I’ll make you a deal.” he repeated with a twisted smile on his lips, watching as the demon in his hands came to life. He could sense it’s intrigue, its fear at being stifled out, and spared only a second before continuing. “I’ll give you my heart and allow you to live,” he started, a smirk crossing his lips as the fire in his hand seemed to perk up.
“If?” The question brought a laugh to Howl’s lips, but soon after he grew serious and his smirk grew, a devious glint in his eyes. Lifting a hand and shifting the demon into one, he ran his hand through his hair nonchalantly.
“You give me more power.” There was a moment of silence where the two of them stared the other down. But before long, with no words exchanged to seal the deal, Howl lifted his hands to his lips and swallowed the fallen star whole.
The world protected by the gateway to Ingary thrilled Howell like nothing before. New places to search, new sights to see, more power to dive head first into, there was no stifling him. For the first week or so, Howell wandered not quite knowing what he was looking for. But in his wandering he stumbled into Ingary—a kingdom with vast riches he could barely begin to comprehend. But more than that, in wandering the land of Ingary, he was taken under the wing of a Madame Sulliman becoming her last and favorite apprentice.
For years he studied under her tutelage, soaking up her knowledge like a sponge soaked up water. There was so much from her that he could learn, and he was thrilled beyond belief. He took to his apprenticeship like a fish to water… a bird to the skies… and as time seemed to pass his powers grew stronger and stronger. Never could he have improved as much as he had in Ingary had he stayed in his lackluster world. So many people didn’t believe it to be true there, not enough powerful witches such as Sulliman were around to help those striving to better their power and control it. This world not only believed in magic, but they respected it and thrived alongside it. Even though Howell, or Howl as it was now, continued a small existence in his home world, Ingary was his home forever more.
As his powers began to grow Howl began to work on his magic on his own to further his deep seeded talents. There would be a point when Madame Sulliman couldn’t teach him any longer or she wouldn’t share all of her wisdom with him, and he needed to be prepared for that day. He respected the woman, but feared her just as much. She was old and frail, but still worlds stronger than him.
One night in the Porthaven Marshes a meteor shower flooded the night skies where Howl was studying. He had taken a short leave of absence with Sulliman to just focus by himself, and secluded himself in a cabin there. As the stars fell to the earth and dissipated in the distance, there had been one close enough for Howl to collect. He had caught the star, and in a surge of desire and thirst for power, he made a deal with the fire demon. His heart and the chance to survive in exchange for power. They sealed the deal and Howl swallowed him successfully giving his heart to the demon and binding them together for as long as the other should live.
From that point forward, as far as Howl was concerned, he was on his own. He returned to Sulliman and instead of retaking his post as her apprentice he cut his ties with her and left without explanation. He could already feel the power growing in him and he no longer needed her in his quest to gain power. Be he didn’t quite know or understand the true price he paid for that power, and he wouldn’t until much later in his life.
Howl had quite nearly accomplished everything he had set out to do when crossing. He had the power now, the unsurpassable magic he had craved as a child—power. Now all he had to do was live his life. He became a recluse again, creating a home where he could live that was later donned as his ‘moving castle’ a rather skillfully put together home that by any stretch of the word wasn’t a castle in the least. But it served him well. He could live where he wanted creating gateways and portals to the cities around Ingary, never staying in one place longer than he had to. Once again he earned the same reputation as he had at school—the stealer of hearts. He valued beauty and power over everything, changed his hair and his appearance to be pleasing to the eye and began to date women and make them fall in love with him, only to turn around and break their heart.
Though one time he messed up and made enemies with the wrong witch. She had been young, beautiful even. Her looks were beyond compare and she had power and magic as well. But it didn’t seem to bother him that he was playing with fire. He made her fall in love with him, and just like the many faceless, nameless girls before, he cast her away. But she wasn’t going to stand for it, and vowed she would one day have his heart. From then on she seemed to hunt him down wherever he went. But he easily evaded her. It was his life to live however he wanted to. And he was having the best time he could possibly imagine.
It was odd for him to show up during holiday occasions in the cities, he quite preferred to just remain off the radar. But today had been different. He had been casually walking the city, his appearance not causing a stir due to the many festivities, surveying the area and gauging it. It held some promise, he quietly noted to himself, situating his jacket on his shoulders as he turned down a back alley way, the noise dissipating, leaving him with only the sound of his boots clacking against the street. Though something didn’t seem right, from the corner of his eye he noticed that he was being followed, and a smirk crossed his lips. If she wanted to stalk him and hunt him down, then so be it, let the games begin.
Turning around the corner, the voices of other people talking caught his attention. For a quick moment he thought to ignore them and pass, continuing to play this game of cat and mouse with the minions following him around. But as he passed by, looking down the alley, he knew his attention had been grabbed. He was intrigued by the situation, but mostly by the two guards intimidation tactics to get this woman. Sure, Howl knew he was heartless when it came to women, but at least when he wooed them he did it politely and respectfully… it was obvious to him that that was not the intentions of these men. Smile curling on his lips, a quick backward glance over his shoulder, Howl turned down the alley, coming up behind the meek woman.
“There you are sweetheart, sorry I’m late,” he said casually, as if speaking to his lover. His arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him. He noticed the sharp intake of breath, she was surprised, it only made him smile more. “I was looking everywhere for you.” he finished, eyeing the guards down when they seemed to get upset by his presence.
“Hey, we’re busy here.” Howl scoffed and gently lifted his hand from her shoulder making a small gesture.
“Are you really? It looked to me like the two of you were just leaving.” he said, gesturing with his hand, laughing inwardly as the men stiffened and began to march away. It was one of the many good things he could do with his powers, rescuing damsels that is. His hand rested on her shoulder again as he bent forward to make eye contact with her, a soft smile on his lips. “Don’t hold it against them, they’re not actually all that bad. Where to? I’ll be your escort this evening.” He gave her a soft genuine look, waiting for her to answer him, and when she finally did, he gave a nod to himself. His arm moved from her shoulder and gently maneuvered so she was grasping his arm. “Don’t be alarmed when I’m being followed. Act normal.” and then they started to walk.
For a short moment they walked in silence, but the minions following him didn’t let him get a chance to get away. They pooled out from the walls, suddenly calling attention to themselves from the girl by his side, and he looked back over his shoulder, grip tightening on her. “Sorry, looks like you’re involved.” And the chase continued.
Life had been very different for him since leaving Madame Sulliman’s side. Many changes in his life took place and it seemed like it was moving in a flash. One minute he was quitting being an apprentice and the next he was breaking hearts and even taking on an apprentice of his own—a young boy he had found in his castle that he neither welcomed nor told to leave. And while he lived his life mostly in Ingary, Howl had also taken time to return to his world on occasion and dabbled in a life and career there as well. Not to mention, the rumor of a new gateway-- a more powerful and magical one had tickled his fancy and set him on a hunt to which he eventually came to find and the world that resides on the other side. He had the power to go back and forth between the worlds of his own as well as the ones residing through the new portal, the talent and wise mind to start a life there becayse why not take advantage of it? And so he did, he became an entertainer… a magician who wielded real magic despite speculation. But despite the living he had made for himself in the magicless home he dwelled from, and the one residing in the world beyond the moving portal, he preferred Ingary and considered it his true home.
On one such occasion when he went to town, the city celebrating May Day, Howl had stumbled upon something that would change his life forever, without really realizing it. She was a mousy girl, quiet and charming in her own way, but being taken advantage of by men in authority positions. He frowned upon that, greatly disliking intimidation tactics just to get a woman, and swooped in to rescue her. Unknowingly though he had brought Sophie into something he shouldn’t have, involving her with the woman whose heart he had previously broken.
Luckily they made it safely to her destination, Howl gently easing her back to her feet after their short flight. He had remained on the balcony watching her for a short moment, before bidding her farewell, promising her that he would draw them away and that just to be safe she should remain inside for a short while. With a soft, fond, “That’s my girl,” he left to distract the minions and go about the rest of his day. Though there was something about her that he just couldn’t shake. He didn’t know what, she really wasn’t the type of girl he chased after—far from it, but she stuck out in his mind if only for a short while.
And life went on for him much the same as it always had. He returned home to his castle, to his apprentice and demon, and went about his life. He would either lock himself in his room or gather his things and disappear through the portal to one of two places—the war zone or San Francisco. He would be gone for days at a time, sometimes just a few hours but Calcifer and Markl knew how to survive without him. After one such visit to the warzone, Howl had returned home to an elderly lady cooking over his fire, which was unheard of considering Calcifer was a rowdy and unruly fire to anyone but himself. Something about her seemed familiar, he could sense the magic on her, but he kept quiet and let her stay in his home. She had brought along a message from the Witch of the Waste, and he suddenly knew something was awry.
Grandma Sophie she called herself, the cleaning lady hired by Calcifer because they lived in a dump. It didn’t bother him, just another body in his home that he neither welcomed nor told to leave, and he was happy to host her.
Beauty is all the Matters
“SOPHIE!” his loud distraught bellow echoed through the castle, his cries and pounding feet flying along the wood as he exited the bathroom in a towel and ran downstairs. His hands were curled and knotted in his hair, eyes wide and heart beating in his chest. This just couldn’t be happening. Something like this could never happen to him. Red. His hair was red! He had worked so hard to be beautiful and he was nothing but an ugly atrocity. He had been so kind to this woman in welcoming her into his home, hosting her despite the creeping suspicion she had something to do with the Witch of the Waste. He was worried for her, though he’d never admit it, and this was how she returned his favor? By getting carried away and… and… HORRENDOUS! UGLY! “YOU! YOU SABOTAGED ME! LOOK! LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO MY HAIR! LOOK! LOOOOOOOOK” he shouted desperately running down the stairs and quite nearly ripping his hair out as he tried to show her the damage she had done.
She tried to appease his breaking heart, to sooth it by telling him it was a pretty color. But he knew better than to believe such lies. Such horrid abysmal lies. She was just saying it to be nice. So she could keep her job and not get kicked out. There was no truth behind it. He wasn’t a fool. “ITS HIDEOUS! You completely ruined my potions in the bathroom!” he continued dramatically as she tried to explain she was just organizing things. It didn’t help, his mind was too wrapped up in the awful mistake that had been made. “WRONG! WRONG! I specifically ordered you not to get carried away! And now… I’m repulsive… I can’t live like this…”
He had slumped into the chair, his head bowed as he wept. Sophie was trying to sooth him again but he seemed to be deaf to her words. His mind was too wrapped up in himself, in his broken appearance, that he couldn’t swallow the realization that it might not be as bad as he thought. That he might not be as ugly as he assumed. His voice was low and depressed, his fingers loosely curled into his hair. “I give up… I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful.” And the room began to warp and grow dark from the spirits of darkness he was summoning. He didn’t want to live anymore…
It was rough getting back into the swing or life after the tantrum he threw. It took a lot of energy and power to summon the spirits and had been exhausted after being cleaned up. But for a while he just wanted to mope, to wallow in his own self-pity and somehow convince himself he was truly as ugly as he thought. But admittedly it was refreshing to have dark hair again, like he had back home. Sophie had been kind enough to mother him through the situation, despite her angry outburst toward his temper, and he could never form the words to properly thank her. Instead, he wanted to use her.
He was a coward despite his power and strength. All he ever did was run away from his problems instead of facing them head on. It was like that at home, with the Witch of the Waste, and now… now with the fact he had to report to the castle. He didn’t want to face it… he just wanted to run. And Sophie, she created an avenue he never knew he had. She could pose as his mother and go for him! It took convincing, considering she thought he should just face the king and tell the man the war was pointless, but in the end she agreed. He promised her he would be with her, disguised. She wouldn’t be alone.
For a while he couldn’t figure out why it was he needed her to go when he intended to follow in disguise, but as he showed up at the palace, marching into the room where both Sophie and Madame Sulliman were speaking in, disguised as the King he understood. Sophie gave him the courage to stand up to his demons and face them head on. Madame Sulliman was disappointed in him so much so that she wanted to strip him of his powers. She tried to spin a tale for Sophie so she’d see him for the monster he was, and it seemed like he had been wrapped up in the spell as he saw the dancing stars taunting him. His mind had been lost and he began to turn into the monster that was claiming his body when he used his power too much… but Sophie caught on. Sophie stood up for him. She saved him. Just in time he was able to get them out of the dangerous situation, and they were on a glider before anyone knew it. He was able to admit to her that she was what gave him the courage to show up, able to admit his fear of Sulliman, but more important how it had been her who saved him. He wanted, no… needed her to get home safe. He gave her five minutes of invisibility and distracted the guards chasing after them, it was the least he could do for her.
He got home late after that, limping in still in his monster form. He was in pain, tired, discouraged. But considering the astronomical mess he walked into, and the sleeping forms of the Witch of the Waste and Sophie herself, he knew they were home safe. That was what mattered most. Like most occasions when he came home from the war zone or San Francisco, he went directly to his bath, taking the long time to relax and ease himself back into his human form. And when he came back down, despite the fear eating at his nerves that he hid cleverly behind a mask, he announced they were moving. They couldn’t remain where they were with Sulliman hot on his trail. He needed everyone to be safe, because he knew very shortly that he wouldn’t be around to protect them.
It took effort and time, but eventually the portals on the door had been moved. Pendragon and Jenkins no longer existed. Instead he moved the house to the hat shop Sophie had once worked in, a comfortable place for her to be. Bur more important was the new color on the dial—the new portal he had linked to the castle as a gift to her. It was his secret garden, a sanctuary he made when he was younger, and coincidentally the same place he had found and made a deal with Calcifer. She seemed excited by it, taken back by its beauty, and it made him happy to see. At least there would be some part of him left for her after everything was said and done. Though she was smart and caught on to his plan—she knew he was leaving. Before much else could be said they were attacked and he had to send her home so he could fight without risking her safety.
Something Worth Protecting
It had been a day since he went to fight in the warzone, a day of nothing but working against stopping the warships from causing too much devastation. But no matter how hard he tried it seemed that their numbers just grew and grew. He was out matched, even with his great magic and power. What scared him most though was the attack taking place. He had fought to avoid this, but airships slipped by him. He was just one man fighting against and army. Bombs had fallen from the sky and wrought devastation to the city. It seemed Madame Sulliman had found him. But none of that worried him—all that mattered was Sophie.
He had raced to get home, air flowing through the feathers of his wings, and lucky for him he was just in time. He watched as an airship dropped its bomb just on top of the shop. So many were free falling, waiting to explode and leave the land covered in flames, but one in particular was headed toward the shop. His only hope to save it was to grab on and direct it as best he could, and he did, without hesitation. The bomb plummeted to the ground, landed just out of range from the shop, buried in rubble. For a moment he had thought the worst that he was unable to direct it away, but as the dust settled and the familiar silver hair came into view he knew it was alright. He could relax. She ran to him and her embrace was warm. He could feel a glimmer of something he didn’t recognize stirring in his chest. It was odd and unfamiliar, but he decided he liked it.
“I’m sorry Sophie, I should have gotten here sooner.” he breathed, holding her close to him. She was thankful he was alive, he could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice, and his grip on her grew tighter. He didn’t want to let go. But Howl understood that time was of the essence. Slowly he led her back to the door, very much aware of the minions following them, but uncaring as they were soon safely within Calcifer’s protection however weak it was. It was unnerving to see his friend sick, and with as much power as he could spare brought the flame back to life. His attention turned to the witch, and with as much respect as he could muster, he questioned her, promising to talk with her after he was done protecting the shop. He too thought it odd that he was no longer running from his problems, but one look at Sophie and he understood.
“Stay here, Calcifer will protect you from the henchmen. I’ll stand guard out front.” Sophie followed after him, pulling him into a hug, and it took all his power to not turn around and return the favor. She wanted him to stay, but Calcifer was too weak to protect them. It had been her idea to run away this time, but for once, being a coward was not suiting of him. “Sorry, I’ve had enough of running away Sophie. And now I’ve got something I want to protect.” He locked eyes with her, offering the smallest of smiles, before finishing, “It’s you.”
From that point forward Howl never saw Sophie again. He had left the castle to protect her from the bombs, to make sure there would be a tomorrow for her to see, but there was only so much he could do. Bombs were falling everywhere and slowly he let the monster in him take over. His rage and determination fueled him and the lurking beast that resided deep within him had taken control, ripping at air ships and fighting the transformed wizards. He lost his grip on what was going on, and just let his primal instincts move him forward.
But even his heroic tactics didn’t get him anywhere. The land already under attack became shrouded in darkness. He was completely surrounded by the evil creatures, when all of a sudden a burning pain shot through his chest. He had never felt such a thing before, but it seemed to paralyze him. He was unable to fight back through the pain and fell to the ground seemingly dead and lifeless. He might have thought it to be a heart attack or some sort of heart related injury, but he was heartless… there was no chance. Despite everything though, he remained on the ground writhing, watching as the airships were overcome by the looming darkness and beasts he had never seen before.
People were rushing around him, running for their lives. They didn’t know what to fear more—the darkness or the air raid, but they ran anyway. He too felt the strike of fear come over him, but all he was able to do was writhe in pain. That is, until a deathly cold feeling washed over him, like an ice bath to the face. The pain in his chest disappeared and left him cold and hollow, numb even. And as he gathered himself back to his feet, taking in what was going on, he knew but one thing. He needed to run away. This land he called home was gone for, alive only in the flames that destroyed it. He feared for Sophie’s safety, wondered if he had given her time to get away, but now, all he knew what to do was run.
It took all of the power he could summon to create a portal on some random door to transport him to the magical portal that would allow him to return to the realm he had started yet a new life in, the one called San Francisco. But it was all that was left in him. He stumbled through his portal just in time to avoid another onslaught, and had just enough energy to find and stumble back through the one San Francisco, lying lifelessly in the park’s grass surrounded by the feathers of his monster form.
It was a week before he woke up, the beeping sound of his heart monitor stirring him from his sleep. He suddenly felt scared and tried to rip the IVs out and run away—the need to find Sophie and make sure she was safe overcoming him. But he was quickly strapped down to his bed. He was weak, tired, and above all else injured. Life would never be the same from that point forward. His home was gone, overcome by darkness. He had failed to protect Sophie... so all that was left for him was his existence in the real world.
News spread like wildfire that the powerful magician Pendragon, a guise he adopted when he crossed over to start a new life, had been mortally injured, and sympathy mail and flowers came from all over filling his room quickly. But before too long his injuries seemed to heal and he was getting stir crazy just sitting on the bed. All that was left to deal with now was the fact his mortal body would forever be in a state of weakness. News had been delivered to him when he had woken and was no longer in a distressful state of mind, he had a heart condition. Apparently whatever he had been doing to get into his accident had thrown him into cardiac arrest, doctors saying he had died on them for three minutes before coming back. But the issue brought to light something new, he had a weaker heart with an irregular heartbeat, or in their terms Cardiac Arrhythmia. For the most part he would be fine, but any strenuous activity could potentially cause serious injury. They suggested he retired early,
ending the start of a beautiful career before it could fully take off… but he was adamant. Wizardry and magic was his life, if he couldn’t live in Ingary and be a wizard he wasn’t going to give up here just because of some mortal heart issue.
After a week or so he was released, and slowly Howell returned to doing shows as Pendragon. It was rough at first, not used to his condition and how hard it was to control it and keep from passing out after shows. But slowly the pain in his chest subsided and the numbness left him. He had returned to the land he called his home on numerous occasions but it was overcome in darkness. He wanted to fight, and did so on occasion, but much like every other attempt at protecting something, he failed. So all he could do was run away… it was all he was good at.